Educators throughout Perry Township Schools focus on creating a positive environment with support from the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) Rewards program.
PBIS Rewards recently held a regional conference at Southport Middle School. Approximately 40 educators from around the country gathered to discuss techniques to help students learn and grow. PBIS, which is backed by several decades of research by major universities, is the strategic framework used by schools to improve classroom culture and student behavior, promoting a safe environment for learning.
Funded by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Special Education Programs (OSEP) and the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education (OESE), PBIS uses a multi-tiered approach to social, emotional and behavior support.
At the center of PBIS is the belief that all children can exhibit appropriate behavior if adults create the proper conditions that empower them to do so. During one workshop discussion, the facilitator explained that choosing to use the word “expectations” versus “rules” puts less pressure on the child. “Expectation” indicates the adult has high hopes that a specific behavior will happen. “Rule,” by contrast, is an authoritative mandate that is perceived as stifling the child’s freedom to make choices.
In the workshop, participants also discussed ways to ensure students understand what the expectations are. For example, telling a student to “act appropriately” may be too vague for a child to understand. Instead, explicitly saying “read along with the presentation slides and refrain from talking” may provide more clarity about what is acceptable and what is not. Likewise, the directive of “be respectful” may be too vague for students to understand. As an alternative, teachers might say “listen carefully to the lesson, raise your hands before asking questions, and refrain from using your phones.” School staff must develop the rules, routines and physical arrangements to help students be successful.
PBIS also works because of incentives. Students understand they are continually working toward a reward. For example, once students reach the pre-determined success threshold, they receive a reward. The reward can be something as small as a hat day. The option to wear a hat to school is a fun way to break up the routine of a typical school day. Because PBIS is used in K-12, rewards should be adjusted to fit the appropriate grade level.
The broad purpose of PBIS is to improve the effectiveness, efficiency and equity of schools and other agencies. PBIS improves social, emotional and academic outcomes for all students, including those with disabilities and those from underrepresented groups.